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Tree-of-Heaven – Just How Invasive It Is?

Elvis Elvis

If you wonder how invasive the Tree-of-Heaven is, consider these facts:

  • * One Tree-of-Heaven can produce up to 325,000 seeds in a year.
  • * Its seeds are easily spread by wind.
  • * Its seeds have a very high germination rate.
  • * Sprouts as young as 2 years old are able to produce seed.


There’s more…Once the Tree-of-Heaven is established it can dominate an area by re-sprouting from its stump or root system. An established tree constantly spreads by sending up root suckers that may emerge as far as 50 feet from the parent tree.

Additionally, mechanical means of controlling Tree-of-Heaven may be counter productive. This tree responds to cutting and grinding by producing large numbers of stump sprouts and root suckers. Even hand pulling is not effective unless you are able to remove the entire root system as you do this.

Tree-of-Heavencan grow to heights of 80 feet and 3 feet in diameter. It has a smooth grey bark, blunt twigs that are light chestnut brown, and long stems of leaves from 1-4 feet in length. There is also a cluster of seeds called samaras. All parts of the tree and especially the flowers have a strong and offensive odor.

Tree of Heaven   Just How Invasive It Is?

In no time, the Tree-of-Heaven has thrived and adapted to a wide variety of conditions. It is found growing in fields, along roadsides, fencerows, forest openings, woodland edges, and cracks of asphalt and sidewalks. It has become a serious agricultural threat and has been known to occur as seedlings by the hundreds in newly planted fields.

Self Preserving:Amazingly, the Tree-of-Heaven produces a toxin in the bark and leaves that acts as a natural herbicide. As the toxin accumulates in the soil it inhibits the growth of other plants and continues to make room for its continual invasive expansion.

Tree of Heaven   Just How Invasive It Is?

Controlling the Tree-of-Heaven: The Tree-of-Heaven is very hard to get rid of once it has established a taproot. This tree has persisted and survived in many areas despite cutting, burning and herbicide use. As a result, you should remove seedlings by hand as early as possible. Do this by hand when the soil is moist to help ensure removal of the entire taproot.

If the tree is larger and established, it should be cut a couple of times per year to prevent seed production. The tree will vigorously re-sprout from the root system but the new tree sprouts will be lower in stature and easier to control. Eventually over time and persistent cutting you will gain more control and may eventually kill off the tree system.

A glyphosate herbicide sprayed onto the leaves or painted onto freshly cut stump will kill this tree. To insure the herbicide gets into the root system it is best to apply the herbicide in the late growing season. This is when the tree is translocating nutrients to its roots.

Positives for Glyphosate: Glyphosate herbicides are recommended because they are biodegradable and breaks down into harmless components upon contact with the soil.

Negatives for Glyphosate: A negative is that Glyphosate is non-selective, systemic, and will affect all green vegetation. Definitely consult a county extension agent or some other expert in the field before using this herbicide.

Positive Footnote: In certain situations the Tree-of-Heaven can be beneficial as cover. It is very hardy and can grow in tough areas where other plants and trees may have a problem getting established. Despite its negatives, it is an attractive tree and will hide things or act as a privacy feature.